Met Acquires Rare Early Renaissance Spanish Painting
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a savvy acquisition, Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina’s Head of Christ from about 1505. The painting had appeared at Christie’s January 29, 2014 sale of Old Masters listed as by the Italian painter Jacopo De’Barbari, with an attribution confirmed by Dr. Bernard Aikema, according to the auction catalogue. It carried an estimate of $400,000-600,000, but “bidding” stopped at $300,000 and it failed to sell.
According to the Met’s Web site:
The attribution of the Metropolitan’s picture to Yáñez was first proposed by Checa Cremades (1992), who noted that a painting in a private collection in Madrid showing Christ flanked by Saints Peter and John shows the same use of gold dots in the halo and an identical decoration of medallions with Christ’s monogram (IHS) and rinceaux; the beards in both pictures also have the same form. That work is a touchstone of Yáñez’s work at its finest. Since the inscriptions identifying the two apostles are written in Spanish, it was presumably either painted for a Spanish patron resident in Italy or, more likely, in Valencia.
Of the iconography, the Met notes:
Bust-length depictions of Christ—both in painting and sculpture—were relatively common in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy and Spain. They relate to reputedly miraculous paintings derived from the image of Christ’s face that was said to have been imprinted on a cloth when a follower, Veronica, wiped his face on the way to Calvary, or a famous image, the Mandylion of Edessa, which was brought to France following the sack of Constantinople in 1204.
And of the artist himself, the museum says:
Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina was a key figure in laying the groundwork for Renaissance painting in Spain. The first certain notice of him is in September 1506, when, together with his contemporary, Fernando Llanos (active 1506–16) he was advanced payment for work on an altarpiece (retablo) dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian for the cathedral of Valencia. The two artists collaborated on other projects, including the same cathedral’s main altarpiece (retablo mayor), in 1507–10. In 1515 Yáñez traveled briefly to Barcelona, returned to Valencia by 1516, and in 1518–21 was working in his native Almedina in southeastern Spain. Between 1525 and 1531 he worked in Cuenca, before returning to Almedina, where he is documented from 1532 until 1537. Yáñez clearly spent time in Italy prior to his highly successful career in Spain and he rather than Llanos is usually identified with the “Ferrando Spagnuolo” who in April and August of 1505 collected money for work with Leonardo da Vinci on a mural depicting the battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence.